No Way Home: A Dancer's Journey from the Streets of Havana to the Stages of the World

Overview

Carlos Acosta, the Cuban dancer considered to be one of the world's greatest performers, fearlessly depicts his journey from adolescent troublemaker to international superstar in his captivating memoir, No Way Home.

Carlos was just another kid from the slums of Havana; the youngest son of a truck driver and a housewife, he ditched school with his friends and dreamed of becoming Cuba's best soccer player. Exasperated by his son's delinquent behavior, Carlos's father enrolled him ...

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No Way Home: A Dancer's Journey from the Streets of Havana to the Stages of the World

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Overview

Carlos Acosta, the Cuban dancer considered to be one of the world's greatest performers, fearlessly depicts his journey from adolescent troublemaker to international superstar in his captivating memoir, No Way Home.

Carlos was just another kid from the slums of Havana; the youngest son of a truck driver and a housewife, he ditched school with his friends and dreamed of becoming Cuba's best soccer player. Exasperated by his son's delinquent behavior, Carlos's father enrolled him in ballet school, subjecting him to grueling days that started at five thirty in the morning and ended long after sunset.

The path from student to star was not an easy one. Even as he won dance competitions and wowed critics around the world, Carlos was homesick for Cuba, crippled by loneliness and self-doubt. As he traveled the world, Carlos struggled to overcome popular stereotypes and misconceptions; to maintain a relationship with his family; and, most of all, to find a place he could call home.

This impassioned memoir is about more than Carlos's rise to stardom. It is about a young man forced to leave his homeland and loved ones for a life of self-discipline, displacement, and physical hardship. It is also about how the heart and soul of a country can touch the heart and soul of one of its citizens. With candor and humor, Carlos vividly depicts daily life in communist Cuba, his feelings about ballet — an art form he both lovesand hates — and his complex relationship with his father. Carlos Acosta makes dance look effortless, but the grace, strength, and charisma we see onstage have come at a cost. Here, in his own words, is the story of the price he paid.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A debut memoir noteworthy for its candor, energy and colorful sketches of life in Cuba...A fresh, authentic account of art, adversity and family. — Kirkus

"An eloquent portrait of an artist as well as a tribute to the flawed but committed parents who wanted a better life for him." — Publishers Weekly

"Carlos Acosta's trajectory from street urchin to superstar is another astonishing example of the transcendent power of dance. In this brutally honest account of his struggle to reconcile two conflicting worlds, we discover the source of inner conflict that has alchemized into passionate intensity onstage and made him one of ballet's most thrillingly charismatic performers." — Julie Kavanagh, author of Nureyev: The Life

"The smell and feel of Havana, the joys and dangers of the slums where Carlos Acosta grew up, are among the dominant tastes to be found in this tale. Love of family and love of country — along with an adolescent loathing of ballet — are the anthems running through Acosta's autobiography." — Time Out London

"The dazzling Carlos Acosta is the Cuban Billy Elliot, a poor kid who triumphed over prejudice and humble origins.... his fascinating recollections suggest that [he] is a tormented genius." - Daily Mail, London

"Acosta is that rare breed: a superstar whose appeal reaches beyond the rarefied confines of the ballet world. It is not just for his talent that audiences love him, but for the inspiration of his personal history." — The Observer, London

"Carlos Acosta is the best thing in ballet since Nureyev. What's clear from his candid and moving memoir is that the rich rhythms and climate of his birthplace in Cuba are behind every step he takes." — Daily Express, London

"The life of ballet dancer Carlos Acosta has all the hallmarks of a bestseller: rags to riches, romance, family tragedy, and a unique insight into growing up poor in Cuba in the 1980s. In No Way Home, Acosta's voice is instantly likeable." - Financial Times, London

Jennifer Balderama
Many ballet memoirs revel in a sort of martyrdom in service to a calling. In No Way Home we see a man who spent years in blunt defiance of his calling. The result is a bittersweet, uneven but spirited testament to Acosta's prodigious talent: despite it all, when he finally leapt, he flew.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

A former principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre and now a guest artist and choreographer, 34-year-old Acosta renders a deeply moving account of his leap from deep poverty in a suburban Havana hovel to international dance stardom. He was the son of a white mother and a black father 30 years her senior with eight children from several previous marriages. Obsessed with soccer and break dancing, young Acosta wanted no part of ballet when his father enrolled him in an arts school at the age of nine to keep him away from street gangs. Although extremely gifted, Acosta was frequently truant because of a grueling commute, feelings of inferiority about his poverty and the chaos of his home life. But, as he relates, winning the prestigious Prix de Lausanne catapulted him onto the international ballet scene, with triumphal stints with the English National Ballet, the Houston Ballet and the Royal Ballet; the memoir ends in 2003 with the London debut of his own ballet based on his childhood. An eloquent portrait of an artist as well as a tribute to the flawed but committed parents who wanted a better life for him. 8 pages of b&w photos. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

In this candid and colorful autobiography, we accompany Acosta as he revisits his humble beginnings in Cuba and traces the arc of his international career as a sought-after soloist, most recently with the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow and the Royal Ballet in London. This is not a backstage tell-all but a frank, gracefully written account of one man's struggles in his life and art. Along the way, Acosta shares his search for identity on both personal and professional levels: he is of mixed-raced parentage and, he writes, ballet casting is not always color-blind. With its fascinating glimpse into everyday life in Cuba and honest portrayal of the sheer physical and emotional commitment required for a performing career, Acosta's book will be of interest even to those who don't know a plié from a port de bras. (Includes eight pages of black-and-white photographs, not seen by this reviewer.)
—Carolyn M. Mulac

Kirkus Reviews
The bittersweet story of a Cuban ballet dancer's rise to international fame. Born in 1973 in a suburb of Havana, Acosta aspired to become a soccer star. His dream ended at age nine when his father Pedro, a stern disciplinarian, forced him to enroll in ballet school. An Afro-Cuban truck driver whose relationship with Acosta's fair-skinned mother had scandalized her family, as a youth Pedro had been ejected from a whites-only cinema while watching a silent film about ballet. In a debut memoir noteworthy for its candor, energy and colorful sketches of life in Cuba, Acosta depicts the grueling world of ballet against the backdrop of the challenges he confronted in a country undergoing major upheaval during the 1990s. Triggered by the collapse of the Soviet Union and resultant loss of economic aid, the era known in Cuba as the "Special Period" gave rise to massive food and gasoline shortages, daily power outages and a national despair that prompted thousands to flee the country on rough-hewn rafts. The winner at age 16 of a prestigious international ballet competition in Switzerland, Acosta was permitted by the Cuban government to perform as a guest artist with numerous dance companies, including the Houston Ballet. He writes poignantly that his elation about his career was deflated each time he boarded a plane and left his struggling family. Acosta's chronicle of his efforts to integrate his success as a black ballet dancer with his complex feelings about his country and ambivalence about a profession he didn't choose makes a lively, provocative read. Now based in London, he has been celebrated in recent years as the choreographer and lead dancer of Tocororo, a ballet inspired by the pain andpassion of his upbringing in Cuba. A fresh, authentic account of art, adversity and family. Agent: Felicity Bryan/Felicity Bryan Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416567165
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 12/30/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 812,669
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 5.40 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Table of Contents

CONTENTS

PART ONE
1973-1988

1. My Family

2. The Photograph

3. Beginning

4. The First Grand Plié

5. Plagued by Uncertainty

6. With Hate in My Heart

7. A Prisoner

8. Pinar del R’o

PART TWO
1989-1993

9. Take Off

10. The Grand Prix de Lausanne

11. History Repeats Itself

12. Chery's Decision

13. London at Eighteen

14. A Year Without Dancing

15. Beginning Again

16. Madrid

PART THREE
1993-2003

17. Fears and Insecurities

18. Back in Havana

19. The World Will Be Mine

20. Good-bye, Houston

21. The Lady and the Three Musketeers

22. A Moment of Happiness

Acknowledgments

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2009

    Enthralling

    He thrilled me on the ballet stage and charmed me through his writing.  A glimpse into the professional ballet world, but, much more, a personal journey, encompassing spiritual, cultural and economic conflicts.  Charming and lovely in style and particularly vivid in recreating Cuban life... A story full of family dynamics, obligations and the meaning of love...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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